Summer is the perfect time for exploring the Norfolk coastline — and there are no shortage of top restaurants while you're enjoying the sunshine. SARAH HARDY finds another gem.
The north Norfolk coast is packed with fabulous eateries from the upmarket Hoste Arms to the charming Wiveton Farm cafe. Many places are magnets for second homers where it is important what you wear and so on.
Briarfields at Titchwell, sandwiched between Brancaster and Thornham, is certainly in a honeypot area but seems to have escaped any pretension. The hotel is run by three sisters and certainly has that personal touch so often missing in chains.
It is set right on the marshes and has the most marvellous uninterrupted views over them to the sea, with the sky merging with the water to create an eerie paradise. The restaurant has floor to ceiling windows that really take advantage of these views.
The hotel is all on one level and very spacious. Apart from a light and airy restaurant, there are several other areas including a TV lounge where you can chill out in front of a big Sky telly, a snug with an open fire and lots of magazines to browse through and a bar area for mixing and mingling. At the front of the hotel is a large decking area where you can enjoy a pre dinner drink or post dinner coffee and soak up the marvellous setting.
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The bedrooms are based around a courtyard garden, brimming over with roses when I visited and another place to simply sit and relax.
There are 22 rooms, all kitted out in a different style but equally pleasant and they include a couple of two-bedroom suites for families.
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But what of the food? Well, chef Ben Handley really takes advantage of the local ingredients, especially fish and shellfish. And there are plenty of local suppliers, too, from Arthur Howell and his meats to Cyril Southerland and his oysters from Brancaster and ice creams from Parravani's.
The menu offers plenty of choice, with lots of meat options from venison to Aberdeen Angus beef, pork, chicken and a veggie choice, too.
I started with a Scotch quail egg with mustard and tarragon mayo at �5.95. It was very tasty, nice and light and disappeared quick. My husband went for the soup of the day at �4.50, a frothy carrot and coriander number, which was much enjoyed, along with some delicious home-made bread.
I couldn't resist the seafood extravaganza as a main course choice which came served on a three-tiered cake stand at �15.95. It was packed with all manner of goodies from smoked sprats, oysters, smoked salmon, dressed crab and more. It was quite a challenge to complete but yes, no trouble for me.
My husband went for the baked seabass with Brancaster cockles, potatoes are more, also at �15.95. Served on the bone, it was another impressive dish which was much enjoyed.
On form, we both managed desserts, all priced at �6. My lemon pots with strawberry shortbread were nice and sharp while my husband's chocolate torte almost defeated him. I fancied the cheese selection at �7.50 as it contained local cheeses, oat cakes, chutney and other yummy bits and pieces – next time.
There are a couple of treats that I highly recommend. One is their posh afternoon tea at �10.50 per person and is very generous with finger sandwiches, a fruit scone, a slice of cake and more. It is served from 2.30 to 5pm. And there's seafood bar served every Sunday from 12pm-5pm which offers you the chance to sample a little bit of what you fancy from potted shrimps and so on plus lovely salads, creamy new potatoes and tangy beetroot. And they offer great roast lunches, too – the size of the Yorkshire puddings was incredible.
There is a good children's menu with and an extensive wine list with local beers also available. So, yes, you've guessed it. I really liked Briarfields and don't know why it took me so long to discover. I'll be back. The staff are very friendly and helpful and you couldn't help but feel relaxed, well fed and ready for life again.
Open: Food served lunch 12pm- 2pm, dinner 6.30pm and 9pm
Prices: Starters from �4, mains from �11.25, desserts �6
Vegetarian options: Ample
Wheelchair access: Yes